This article was originally published on WeedMaps and appears here with permission.
As awareness of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) expands, both among medical doctors and patients, we are collectively becoming more and more able to identify a condition that has been historically hard to diagnose. After all, it seems counterintuitive that cannabis can cause many of the symptoms it's used to treat.
Researchers are taking the current understanding of this severe and often debilitating condition one step further by attempting to pinpoint genetic markers that could be used to more readily diagnose CHS. This could potentially prevent those who are vulnerable from developing it in the first place.
Below, find out how CHS relates to genetics and what is being done in the medical world to combat the onset of the cannabis-based condition.
What is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?
Still not widely known or completely understood, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is a condition that is characterized by a strong, and often enduring, sensitivity to THC — and possibly other cannabinoids. CHS causes ongoing abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting when cannabis is consumed.
What causes CHS?
While our understanding of the condition is still developing, CHS seems to occur most often in folks who consume high-potency cannabis and cannabis products regularly for long periods of time. What is happening in the body is a long-term and intense stimulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), along with other receptors and systems outside the ECS.
While medical science is still working to uncover the more complex and nuanced factors contributing to CHS, according to Dr. Ethan Russo, a renowned pioneer in cannabis research, it might be fair to say that CHS isn't a functional gastrointestinal disorder so much as a “manifestation of gene and environmental interaction in a rare genetic disease, unmasked by excessive THC exposure.”
What doesn't cause CHS? Pesticides.
Dr. Russo thinks it's important to dispel the myth that CHS is caused by the pesticides or neem oil used in plant cultivation. “That just doesn't hold water as an explanation,” Dr. Russo said. “There are more pesticides in use now than when CHS was first discovered, and pesticide reactions are quite different to what we see with CHS. Additionally, it's been shown that synthetic cannabinoids, which are quite potent, can induce CHS — and while they are not pure, they don't have pesticides in them.”
The difficulty and high cost of diagnosing CHS
The primary symptoms of CHS — cyclic abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting — are not unique to this condition, making CHS hard to diagnose. Because of this, CHS is considered among doctors to be a “diagnosis of exclusion,” or a diagnosis that is made when all other probable causes are ruled out.
According to an estimate made in a 2019 study, it took the average ER a whopping $76,920.92 in related testing expenses to diagnose CHS, while a 2018 paper estimated the average patient cost of a